The Relationship Between Immorality and Cleansing: A Meta-Analysis of the Macbeth Effect

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Abstract

In a widely publicized set of studies, participants who were primed to consider unethical events preferred cleansing products more than did those primed with ethical events (Zhong & Liljenquist, 2006). This tendency to respond to moral threat with physical cleansing is known as the Macbeth Effect. Several subsequent efforts, however, did not replicate this relationship. The present manuscript reports the results of a meta-analysis of 15 studies testing this relationship. The weighted mean effect size was small across all studies (g = 0.17, 95% CI [0.04, 0.31]), and nonsignificant across studies conducted in independent laboratories (g = 0.07, 95% CI [−0.04, 0.19]). We conclude that there is little evidence for an overall Macbeth Effect; however, there may be a Macbeth Effect under certain conditions.

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